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When Should I Consider Orthotics?

By: Dr. Stephen O’Neil

Dear Dr. Steve: For what sort of problems are orthotics prescribed? Can they make permanent changes in your feet? R.G. Belle River

Dr. Steve: Custom fitted orthotics are a commonly prescribed treatment for several conditions. An orthotic is a plastic insole created from a mold of one's feet and inserted into shoes. They are designed to support the natural curves of the feet and help correct any asymmetries between the feet.

The most common foot ailment plaguing an estimated eighty percent of our population is over pronation, better known as ‘dropped arches'. When the long arch of the foot drops in one or both feet, the natural shock absorption of the foot is reduced. The spring is taken out of the step. This can happen as a result of walking on cement floors for extended periods with improper footwear, obesity, pregnancy, foot injuries and some people are just born with this condition. An arch drops because the ligaments holding the bones of the arch actually stretch. Once ligaments have stretched, they never return to normal length. Flat feet then can cause problems right up the kinetic chain. Without the shock absorption of the feet, those impact stresses from walking or running are transferred to the ankles, knees, hips and spine. This can cause any host of other maladies depending on the severity of the imbalances in the feet.

Some common problems that can be amplified by flat feet are plantar fasciitis, (pain in bottom of feet), heel spurs, knee pain (from arthritis, patello- femoral syndrome, etc.) and pelvic unleveling causing low back pain and even headaches. By wearing orthotics, the natural arches in the feet are supported and balanced. While the changes they make to the feet are not permanent, they remove some of the stressors on the spine. This in turn helps maintain balance and proper alignment of the spine. This can help patients remain symptom free between chiropractic adjustments. This can also help your chiropractor in restoring and maintaining proper motion and alignment to the joints of the spine. In doing so, the nervous system is freed of interference and optimal health and performance can be achieved.

Orthotics are not only prescribed for foot problems but any number of problems affecting the joints above the feet. In order for the body to remain in balance and function optimally it requires a stable foundation. Whether you are someone who is on their feet all day or a performance athlete, orthotics can help restore and maintain this foundation putting the spring back into your step and reducing the pain from your joints.